Tyson Foods expands water conservation efforts

Tyson Foods officials have announced the expansion of the company’s ongoing water conservation efforts

(Roy Graber)
(Roy Graber)

Tyson Foods officials have announced the expansion of the company’s ongoing water conservation efforts. Water is a key component of food production since it’s essential to keeping food safe for consumers. The announcement accompanies the release of the third installment of the company’s 2015 Sustainability Report, which includes information about its environmental stewardship.

“We’re setting a 12 percent water reduction goal by the end of 2020 for our direct operations and will talk with our supply chain, such as the independent farmers who grow animals for our company, about additional efforts they can make to conserve water,” said Dr. Christine Daugherty, vice president of sustainable food production. “Water conservation has been an important area of focus for Tyson Foods for many years. Water is a precious, finite resource and we need to manage it responsibly from farm to finished product.”

This spring, the company will begin installing new measuring and continuous monitoring equipment at its U.S. plant locations that enable personnel to better manage water use in real-time. The amount of water used per pound of finished product is a common metric in food production and Tyson Foods’ goal is to reduce the amount of water used to produce each pound by 12 percent, using 2015 as the baseline year.

“We’ve been testing the continuous monitoring approach at one of our poultry plants in Tennessee since February 2014,” said Leigh Ann Johnston, director of sustainability. “We discovered when managers had real-time insight into how water was being used they were quickly able to improve conservation by taking corrective action.”

During the pilot, the facility had a 9 percent reduction in water used. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this improvement would supply more than 360 families of four with water for one year.

The majority of water the company uses in its direct operations is treated and returned to the environment. Tyson Foods already uses technology and reclamation systems to conserve water, and usage is disclosed in its annual Sustainability Report. Beginning with its calendar year 2016, Tyson Foods also will disclose to the 2016 CDP Water Questionnaire (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project).

“We see CDP as a credible and reliable organization that will make our efforts to responsibly manage water even more transparent,” Dr. Daugherty said.

Earlier this month, Tyson Foods released Sustainability Report segments on animal well-being and corporate social responsibility. Segments to be released in April will cover product development and workforce. Each segment highlights the company’s performance in an open and understandable way, which reflects its commitment to share successes and challenges in a meaningful and relevant manner.

“Environmental stewardship, just like animal well-being and corporate social responsibility, is a large part of responsible, sustainable food production,” Johnston said. “We have to make sure our standards are high, not just because it’s good for our stakeholders and the company, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Video comments from Johnston about the report also are available.

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